BLOOMDALE — For Genoa and Elmwood, Friday’s gridiron matchup was about staying in the hunt for a Northern Buckeye Conference football championship.
The Royals, in their final year in the NBC before moving on to the Blanchard Valley Conference next year, still have a shot at a league co-championship after defeating the visiting Comets, 23-13, Friday.
The Royals, 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the NBC, are one game behind Eastwood (9-0, 6-0). The Royals host Rossford in their final NBC contest next Friday; the Eagles are at Otsego.
The Royals, who lost to Eastwood, 49-48, earlier this season, can only hope the Knights can knock off the Eagles next week while they defeat the Bulldogs.
“Whatever happens, we’ll focus on Rossford next week and we’ll go from there,” Elmwood coach Greg Bishop said.
The Royals might get another shot at the Eagles in the Division V playoffs.
“That’s what I am looking for right now is that other shot,” said Elmwood senior running back Mason Oliver. “That game, the Log (Battle of the Woods Trophy), is already behind me.
“It is just something to look forward to, but after that is gone it’s time for the playoffs and that is truly what matters. Overall, we’ll meet them sometime soon and I’m sure they are not going to like it when they meet us.”
Against Genoa, Oliver had to fight and claw his way for 97 yards rushing on 14 carries, and his longest run was for 14 yards. Oliver gave credit to the Comets’ run defense for keeping him under the century mark.
“It was a battle for sure,” Oliver said. “They kind of stood there waiting for me and I just had to pick holes and go.
“They played hard and super well. Probably one of the best run defenses I’ve ever played against so far overall.”
Elmwood’s answer? Pass to Mason’s little brother, junior Micah Oliver, who is really not so little at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.
Elmwood senior quarterback Hayden Wickard, in windy conditions, completed 18-of-24 passes for 242 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Micah Oliver was targeted 11 times, and he caught nine passes for 160 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown reception.
“Micah is a special player — a really good player and he gets after it when the lights are on,” Bishop said.
Micah also had 12 yards rushing on three carries, including a three-yard TD carry. On defense, Micah had six solo tackles and an interception.
“The dude is an animal,” Mason Oliver said. “Nobody really expects it from the little brother as much as his older brother, obviously. But he steps up when it’s time to play.
“If one thing is not going to work when his number is called, he is ready to roll and he makes sure everybody knows his name.”
Elmwood’s defense played a major role, too, keeping Genoa out of the end zone for three quarters.
At defensive back, Mason Oliver and senior outside linebacker Cannon Endicott had six tackles apiece, and senior defensive lineman Adam Mohre had six tackles, including 2½ sacks for minus-16 yards.
“All week we preached flying to the football, getting after it and being fundamentally sound,” Bishop said. “We came out and we played the way we needed to play to get a win. Our defense did a great job getting after it tonight.”
Middle linebacker Adam Meyer had six tackles, including 1½ sacks.
Elmwood’s other TD came on a 38-yard pass from Wickard to senior Mason Mossbarger. Senior Lex Voska caught four passes for 21 yards and senior Alex Arnold had two catches for 20 yards.
European foreign exchanged student, senior Mattia Susan, who had never played football before arriving in the United States, booted a 25-yard field goal and was 2-for-3 in conversion kicks for the Royals.
Despite the chances of winning a league title becoming slimmer, Bishop likes where his team is with the playoffs looming in two weeks.
“We have tough kids and we had expectations coming into this and we are meeting those expectations,” Bishop said.
“We need to keep getting better every single week, and that’s our goal every single week from here on out once playoff time is coming. We go one week at a time and go from there.”
Elmwood, who had a 23-0 lead after three quarters, had 372 total yards to Genoa’s 263, and the Royals had a 17-14 advantage in first downs.
“You have to tip your hat to Elmwood,” Genoa first-year coach Bill Fisher said. “They have some great players, and they execute when their time is called, and they essentially made more plays than we did.”
Genoa junior quarterback Aiden Brunkhorst completed 14-of-32 passes for 150 yards, including a 14-yard TD pass to junior Austin Teet, but he had passes intercepted by Micah Oliver and junior defensive back Brennan Hiser.
Brunkhorst threw five passes to senior halfback Robert Messenger for 66 yards, three to Teet for 32 yards, three to senior Mason Drummond for 25 yards, and one to sophomore Alex Spencer for 16 yards.
Brunkorst ran for 79 yards on 16 carries and junior running back Aidan Antry ran for 49 yards on 15 carries, including a one-yard TD run. Antry also caught two passes for 11 yards.
The Comets, who fall to 5-4 and 4-2, are now out of league title hopes but still have playoff hopes. Fisher believed his players had the right motivation.
“There were a lot of implications that we could possibly get a home (playoff) game with a victory, and that (league title) was still in play as well so that was something that we had discussed throughout the week,” Fisher said.
“It was for any kind of extra motivation outside of winning every chance we get. I can’t ask for anything more out of these guys. There is absolutely no quit in them, and it’s been like that all year long.”
The Comets will still have a good shot at finishing in the top 16 in the region and possibly getting another shot at Elmwood or any other Division V team in the conference in the playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to next week and potentially the weeks after if we are fortunate enough to be in the top 16,” Fisher said.